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The difference between wireless screen mirroring, screencasting, and desktop sharing

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5 min read
The difference between wireless screen mirroring, screencasting, and desktop sharing
Angela Murphy
December 14th, 2018

Technical terms can be confusing. Here’s a breakdown of wireless screen mirroring, screencasting, and desktop sharing.

Our devices can increasingly interact with each other in ways that are bringing us closer and eliminating cables for good. Various types of wireless interactions work differently depending on what content you want to show and how. Let’s go through some examples.

Screen mirroring (screen sharing)

Screen mirroring is a way to share your screen. As the name suggests, screen mirroring allows you to project, or “mirror”, what is on your smartphone, tablet, or computer and show it on your TV screen, projector, or external monitor without needing to use a cable. The TV or projector will show a replica of what’s displayed on your computer or mobile device, including any movement (e.g., editing a text document or playing/pausing a video).

Unlike when we look into a glass mirror, screen mirroring won’t horizontally flip what you see. So when you hear mirroring, think copying. This is great for viewing local content such as pictures, videos, documents, and professional or educational presentations. During a presentation, you can even choose to only present a specific app or window while still getting to look at your presentation notes privately. This is possible with Airtame’s Single Window Sharing feature, which mirrors a specific window rather than your full screen.

With Miracast now available, Airtame also lets you extend your desktop from Windows computers. This means that, in addition to “mirroring” something you have on your screen, Miracast can also let you use a large display as a second screen. Like Single Window Sharing, extended desktop is a nifty way to view your presenter notes privately while sharing presentation content to your audience.

Let’s summarize your mirroring/screen sharing options with Airtame:

  1. Mirror your full screen or a single window using the Airtame desktop app for Windows, macOS, Chromebook, and Linux.
  2. Use AirPlay to mirror the contents of your Mac in addition to specific content (like photos or videos) from your iPhone or iPad.
  3. Use Google Cast to mirror your full screen or specific content (like photos or videos) from your Android device. Using the Chrome browser on any computer, you can choose to share your full screen or a specific tab.
  4. Use Miracast to mirror your Android or Windows screen, with the option to extend your desktop from your Windows computer.

Screencasting (media streaming)

The major difference between screen mirroring and screencasting is how content is shared to a display. In the case of screencasting, your TV wirelessly receives online content via a digital media player to a TV via a wireless connection.

Screencasting uses an app to send movies, video clips, and music from your phone, tablet or computer to your TV screen. For example, you can use the YouTube or Netflix app on your phone to cast video over the internet from the YouTube or Netflix servers to your TV display.

With casting, you can use your phone or tablet while casting a movie without any interruption. When casting, you’re not streaming video from your mobile device to the TV display, but rather using your mobile to initially set up the cast, and then letting the YouTube or Netflix server do the rest of the work. The term casting is synonymous with products like Chromecast which it has largely stemmed from. You could use your phone to start a movie on your friend’s Chromecast-equipped TV at their house, and then leave. The movie would continue to play.

Airtame supports both Google Cast and Miracast in terms of their screen mirroring and extended desktop functionalities. Airtame does not support media casting in the sense of being able to start a video from your personal device and have it continue even if you leave the premises.

Desktop sharing

Confusion might arise due to the multiple solutions that use “sharing” in different contexts. While screen mirroring is a form of sharing, “desktop sharing” can also involve sharing between computer screens. An example of this is sharing slides through a video call, allowing people working remotely to see their colleague’s or classmate’s presentation.

Solutions like Airtame work differently. They let you share your device screen locally (including your desktop screen), within the context of a meeting or classroom. Airtame mirrors the screen from your personal device and shares it to a larger display (e.g. TV, projector, or smartboard). In other words, Airtame is a solution for “live” presentations that call for individuals to direct their attention to a person who is physically present and using one (or two) displays to show visual aids that are complementary to the message of the speaker.

Screen Mirroring/SharingScreencasting/Media streamingDesktop Sharing
What it doesCopies a device’s screen, so that the same thing is visible on another screen(s)Allows you to play content from one device onto the otherCopies a primary screen, allowing the remote viewer(s) to see everything that the first user sees, including what the “sharer” is doing
Screen viewTwo screens show the same thingTwo screens showing something differentTwo or more screens can show the same thing
ContentEverything on the screen is shownOnly specific content playsEverything on the screen is shown
InternetNot necessarily needed as a connection can be made using built-in WiFi (e.g., the receiver’s own access point)Often used with home WiFi, although can sometimes be made using built-in WiFi (e.g., the receiver’s own access point)Usually needed
MultitaskingWhatever is happening on the primary device is shown on the second screen (unless using presenter mode)The primary device can be used to do something else while casting.Whatever is showing on the shared screen is visible to the other one(s), and viewers can also be allowed to make changes
Screen timeoutsIf the screen of the primary device is blacked out, the secondary device also blacks outThe screen of the primary device can be blacked outIf the screen of the primary device is blacked out, the other screens also show a black screen
AppsNearly everything can be viewed via screen mirroringNot all apps support castingNearly everything can be viewed via screen sharing
Local contentSupports local content such as photos, documents, and videosUsually does not support local contentSupports local content

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Angela Murphy
I translate technical features into benefits that everyone can understand.

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